Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for March 26, 2020

in STEMGeeks2 years ago (edited)

MIT researchers submit a $100 open source ventilator for FDA approval; Chinese company offers facial recognition for people wearing masks; A new AI system approaches 100% accuracy on cancer diagnoses; A Cold-War era submarine wreck is located off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii; and a Steem post argues that surveillance may be useful for COVID-19 in the short term, but it poses long term risks


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First posted on my Steem blog: StemGeeks, SteemIt, SteemPeak*, SteemSTEM.


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  1. An open-source ventilator design has been submitted for fast-track approval - A team of researchers from MIT have recently launched the MIT Emergency Ventilator Project, or E-Vent" web site to describe their efforts to create a motorized device that can compress bag valve masks, which are widely available and commonly used by ambulance crews to assist patients with breathing difficulties. According to the web site, the device has been submitted for emergency approval from the FDA, and the team recently announced intentions to begin testing the devices on pigs. The project dates back about a decade. The device was expected to cost around $100, whereas standard hospital versions cost about $10,000. The original goal was to make it available for use in the developing world where it's hard to get expensive medical supplies. It was also designed, however, with a secondary purpose for use in the developing world during large-scale pandemics like the current one. According to the article, however, there is a fundamental question that may not yet have been answered, "Is it possible to safely ventilate a Covid-19 patient by automatically actuating a manual resuscitator?" If the answer to that question is yes, then organizations with manufacturing capability can make use of the open source design in order to produce devices at large quantity and low cost. Related: Copper3D organizing global campaign to 3D print antimicrobial masks on a global scale

  2. How China built facial recognition for people wearing masks - China's Hanwang facial recognition company has developed a system that can recognize faces wearing masks. The CEO says this was done at the request of multiple hospitals, which needed their systems to be able to recognize the faces of masked nurses. According to the company, the devices are 95% accurate in the lab, and they do even better in the real world because they take a second photo if the first attempt fails. -h/t Bruce Schneier

  3. AI taps human wisdom for faster, better cancer diagnosis - A new system integrates artificial intelligence and human wisdom to make cancer diagnoses. The system makes use of digital photos of potentially cancerous cells, which it compares against images of previously diagnosed cases of cancer. For comparison purposes, it makes use of the largest publicly available database that contains about 30,000 images from 11,000 patients. The article reports that the system achieved a success rate of up to 100% for 32 forms of cancer in 25 organs and body parts. The trial took 4 months and made use of high-performance computers and data storage. Hamid Tizhoosh says that although the technique still needs some refinement, it shows the potential as a screening tool and to speed the process for cancer diagnoses. -h/t Communications of the ACM: Artificial Intelligence

  4. Explorers find Cold War-era submarine wreck off the coast of Oahu - The USS Stickleback was a cold war era Balao-class submarine that had the hull number SS-415. It sank in May of 1958 after a collision with another Navy ship, the Silverstein during an anti-submarine warfare training exercise. This is the sixth ship to be found by the Lost52 Project, which is a private group who is based in New York and hopes to recover all 52 of the submarines that were lost during WWII. Prior to sinking, the ship had been commissioned in 1945, decommissioned in 1946, and recommissioned in 1951. At the time of the sinking, the Stickleback experienced a power failure during a simulated torpedo run and began to sink rapidly. The crew was able to surface by dumping compressed air, but when they did, the sub collided with the Silverstien. Fortunately, the entire crew was able to escape to the Silverstein and other nearby ships, and everyone survived the sinking. The ship was recovered from a depth of 11,000 feet (3,350 meters). The find was made by an underwater autonomous vehicle (UAV) that is equipped with sonar. Sonar scans show that the sub is now broken in half, but 3D imaging shows that it is otherwise in good condition. -h/t

  5. Steem @rt-international: Yes, mobile technology can help solve the Covid-19 crisis – but can also fuel the authoritarian virus sweeping across the world (Op-Ed) - Countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Israel are all implementing cell phone applications for tracking the spread of coronavirus in their jurisdictions. This article lauds the motivations behind those applications, to help people stay safe during the pandemic. However, it points out that when governments employ surveillance techniques like this there is often a dark side. The question that remains to be answered is whether the use of these applications for a transient virus will open up longer term government intrusions that are more severe and longer lived. The concluding paragraph summarizes the argument:
    Because governments are in a panic, the biggest unintended consequence could be the trampling of civil liberties without restraint, totally disproportionate to the threat and the problem we are facing. This is not a military war. It is a civilian health crisis. We should jealously guard our democratic rights as determinedly as we should be looking for vaccines and other technological innovations that can solve the problem we face.

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I couldn't resist the article on open source ventilator design. I see the correction at the end says the design hasn't been submitted yet. I know nothing about ventilators, but this device has to be better than just watching someone gasp to death.

It's really a disgrace that we are not ready for this pandemic. We didn't need a crystal ball to see that a pandemic--some pandemic--was inevitable. With all the weapons we build to kill each other in possible wars, you'd think at least a portion of that effort would be expended to save lives in an entirely predictable pandemic.

It was always when, not if.

Thanks for noticing that correction! Either it wasn't there on Wednesday when I scheduled this post, or else I missed it. I have a bad habit of ignoring page headers and footers, so it could go either way.

I agree that it seems certain to be better than the alternative, so I hope it doesn't get tied up in red-tape.